On a Book Review: Enriching Our Vision of Reality

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n my ongoing journey of diving into the positive relationship between science and religion, I read Enriching Our Vision of Reality: Theology and the Natural Sciences in Dialogue by Alister McGrath. With science degrees in quantum chemistry and biology, Dr. McGrath is a Professor of Science and Religion and Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science & Religion at Oxford University.

McGrath firmly believes that both science and religion are important parts of the big picture – but not the only parts. He sees science and religion are “different parts of the same reality” with each offering a different perspective. Although he unequivocally encourages readers to develop to develop an intricate understanding of nature, McGrath sees Christianity’s role (especially through the lens of natural theology) as providing greater insight into God, creation, and today’s scientific exploration.

“… both scientific and religious theories find themselves confronted with mysteries, puzzles and anomalies that may give rise to intellectual or existential tensions but do not require their abandonment. . . . In each case, there is a common structure of an explanation with anomalies, which are not regarded as endangering the theory by its proponents but are seen as puzzles that will be resolved at a later stage.”

“We all need a greater narrative to make sense of the world and our lives, naturally weaving together multiple narratives and multiple maps to give us the greatest possible traction on reality. Reality is just too complex to be engaged and inhibited using one tradition of investigation. That, I suggest, is why we need both robust theology and informed science.”

“Science dismantles the world so that we can see how things work; the Christian faith assembles them so we can see what they mean.”

In order to understand his point of view, Dr. McGrath organizes this book in a different, but sensible, manner – three parts with multiple chapters in each part; and one part building on the next.

  • Part 1: An explanation of the relationship between science and theology. Although some see the two as incompatible, McGrath promotes a positive relationship.
  • Part 2: Because he threads his story throughout the book, McGrath uses this section to discuss the three people most influential on his point of view: Charles A. Coulson, Thomas Torrance, and John Polkinghorne (whom I’ve read).
  • Part 3: These six chapters examine six parallels between science and theology: Theories & doctrines, faith, models, evolution, human identity, and natural theology.

At pertinent times throughout the book, McGrath shares his personal experiences, including his time as an atheist – so he willing responds to notable New Atheists (particularly Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I find this interesting because I’ve read multiple authors who have been atheists in their personal journey.

Before reading this book, my concept of natural theology related back to William Paley (19th Century) who saw nature’s design and intricacies as proving God’s existence because observable design is a sign of God’s past activity. (This thought is the general overview of those favoring Intelligent Design over evolution by natural selection.) Today’s natural theology (far removed from Paley) allows people to meld scientific and theological information in order to enhance our understanding and admiration of God’s creation.

McGrath surprised me with his criticisms of Ian Barbour’s four models explaining the science-theology interchange. Although he favors Polkinghorne’s four models, I tend to stay with Barbour’s explanation. While Polkinghorne’s model may be more centered on the theological perspective, I see Barbour’s models as an easy way for the general public to understand the different levels/stages of the science-theology relationships. After all, much of the public remains stuck in the paradigm that they must make a choice between the two disciplines. My personal journey on this topic also relates very well to Barbour’s models.

This book is well-researched and documented with 27 pages of endnotes. McGrath also provide 2+ pages of further reading materials for those wanting to know more. For me, these references also reinforces the decisions I’ve made what who and what to read

Enriching Our Vision of Reality is a thought-provoking, but not an easy read for novices on the topic – therefore I believe McGrath’s intended audience are those with more than a casual interest in theology and its interrelationship with science. I wonder if pastors are his intended audience. Then again, the intended audience could be scientists in order to expand their view of theology. For anyone interested, Kindle and paperback versions are available at Amazon.

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On Origin: A Book Review

I’m not an avid reader of fiction, but after watching two interviews on his book promotion tour, I was interested. Knowing my interest in the interchange between science and religion, my wife (who also saw the interviews) returned from Costco with a copy of Origin by Dan Brown.

For the record, I’ve have not read any of Dan Brown’s other books, so I am not going down the rabbit hole of comparing Origin to any of the others.

Origin is a tale involving science and religion revolving around two fundamental questions that humans have thought about for many years: Where do we came from? Where are we going?

Professor Robert Langdon, a character in other Brown novels returns, As an invited guest, he is attending an event where a former student, well-known futurist and anti-religion atheist, Edmund Kirsch is to announce a major finding that (according to him) will disrupt the foundation of world religions.

Most of the story takes place in three different Spanish cities: Bilbao, Madrid, and Barcelona – with a small portion in Budapest, Hungary. Having been to Barcelona, I greatly enjoyed Brown’s use of La Sagrada Familia and La Pedrera (Casa Mila). These both unique structures from famed architect Antoni Gaudi are local treasures. We also visited the Abbey at Montserrat outside of Barcelona.

The fast-paced story held my attention. Given the different locations and the story’s short time frame, Brown dedicates each chapter (which are short) to a specific setting with different characters. This format indicates of simultaneous events.

Brown combines adventure, history, present-day thoughts, religion, a royal family, Artificial Intelligence, and real-life settings to engage readers in the storyline. Being curious, I researched some of the organizations and places in Origin – and yes – they are legit.

There is enough science within Origin to engage readers – but not enough to require a science background. The religion side is small, while the science-religion interrelationship is (at best) shallow. As with any topic, generalizations provide the broad thought, but that can also lead to misconceptions. One incident caused me to cringe, but (at the time of this writing) I can’t find it.

Whereas Origin creates an atmosphere for discussions on the creation topic for readers, some consider Origin to be another God vs Science situation where one must make a choice. The actual wider range of thoughts is not part of this novel – which also reinforces the choice notion. I also note that the religious conservatives in this story do not seem to promote the same type of creationism as the Young Earth Creationists and organizations as Answers in Genesis and their Creation Museum.

Whereas some may take Brown is publicizing an anti-religion view – and possibly his – I did not take his text that way. Professor Langdon’s final conversation with a priest shines light on those who see how religion and science do coexist.

Origin centers around Edmund Kirsch’s big announcement. I’m not going to give it away, but I will state that it’s not what I expected – and it is worth pondering.

In closing, I enjoyed Origin and recommend it. I found it to be easy and engaging reading. Although it is based on many truths, the story is still fiction – but the two key questions are worth thinking about: Where do we came from? Where are we going?

Enjoy a few pictures of La Segrada Familia, La Pedrera, and Montserrat.

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On a Spiritual Spectrum

In the previous post (On a Beach Walk: No. 12), I presented a continuum. No matter the topic, a continuum tries to categorize in order to show relationships. Positions are difficult because overlap exists between adjacent groups and each group can be subdivided into more specific smaller groups.

The continuum below is an attempt to show relationship around the topic of science and theology regarding evolution. It’s not perfect, but it illustrates different positions people hold, so it also stimulates thinking and serves as a point of discussion.

Defining each group is another important aspect. Although each definition below is far from complete, they provide a sense for each group’s position. On the other hand, representing all positions would be difficult.

Strong atheist: Lack the belief in any god and are fervently against religion.

Passive atheist: Lack the belief in any god, but are less antagonistic to religion – possibly tolerant.

Agnostic: A broad group including (but not limited to)

  • Those who don’t believe in any god because we cannot prove a deity’s existence or non-existence.
  • Those who simply don’t know about any god or don’t care to know.

Spiritual naturalist: A broad group including (but not limited to) two broad groups: religious naturalists and humanists – neither believing in a god or gods.

  • Religious naturalists see the meaning of life through the beauty and complexity of the natural world.
  • Humanists embrace reason and logic in order to emphasize a moral and ethical code for doing good in human society.

Spiritual non-theist: Religions that are spiritual, but without believing in a god or gods; such as Buddhists, Hindus, and others

Deist: God who is not linked to any religion is the creator, but does not intervene and is not personal because God has left the world. There are different types of Deists.

Theistic evolutionist: God is the creator. Scripture and nature in a collective relationship. A range of theistic evolutionist exist.

Progressive Creationists: God is the creator and the earth is very old. Two groups include

  • God created many species from which others evolved through mutation and selection
  • Intelligent Design: God creatively intervenes over time when necessary.

Young-Earth creationist: God is the creator, Earth is young, and a literal Genesis in today’s language explains creation.

On a Beach Walk: No. 12

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I like walking the beach as it is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I think about a continuum of thought – one that I’ve encountered countless times over 8 years of personal study and reflections. A continuum containing a diversity of ideas, including the antagonistic polar opposites who only see their way – a way of being one of us or one of them – a shallow continuum of two.

I know where I lie on this continuum of thought, but not at either polarized end. Not only do I know my position between the continuum’s poles, I also know that there are others like me here. Interestingly those at the ends can’t justify our existence.

I see the antagonistic groups as the Blackhearts and the Righteous. Each acting as hooligans as they shout at each other and intimidate others. I see many others who wander as if they are lost because they don’t know. I invite them to have a seat to listen, but polar opposites are preying on the wanderers by saying they have to make a choice, which is really a forced choice. I try to provide a different perspective, but either the hooligans are too loud or the wanderers are either confused or won’t listen.

Some may be thinking I’m referencing Democrats and Republicans, but I am not because that’s too painful – perhaps another day. Today my thoughts are about the interchange of science and religion – an arena where the antagonistic foes force choices upon others – especially the vulnerable and the unknowing.

I am not vulnerable. I am not unknowing. I have a place and I can respectfully and confidently take while understanding the others. I also take my place knowing the difference between right/wrong and agree/disagree.

Finally I get someone to listen. They ask questions as if they don’t hear the shouting because they want to know where they belong. They want confirmation of something they wondered, but never heard.

The continuum is a lot to ponder as I walk – but I like to walk the beach for it is food for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Aspects of Science

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Science – the search for the explanation of what we observe in nature.

Science – a body of organized knowledge that describes the properties and interactions of the material components of the universe.

Science – a human endeavor limited to the human perspective seeking to understand and explain phenomena occurring in the natural world and the laboratory.

Science – a dynamic (not static) intellectual human endeavor leading us to a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Science – an impersonal process requiring a trained mind with passion, imagination, and patience for details to find patterns, structure, connections, and history within nature.

Science – a data-gathering process so we can better understand ourselves, the natural world around us, and our place in this world.

Science – a process with accepted methodologies trained mind works uses while fighting misconceptions, mistaken observations, and inadequate conclusions.

Science – an intellectual activity using the senses and technology to extend the senses for gathering data to develop an explanation based on evidence and what is already known.

Science – a process and activity requiring a conscious mind that observes, inquires, organizes, interprets, understands, and a willingness to follow acceptable scientific methodologies while staying within nature’s boundaries – yet that does not mean that nothing exists outside of nature’s boundaries.

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Science – the study of the material, processes, and forces of the natural world.

Science – not a belief system, but a learning system involving the exploration of natural causes to explain natural phenomena through systemic processes and procedures.

Science – an empirical human endeavor by establishing questions of truth through experimenting and testing without absolutes while remaining open to retesting and reconsideration.

Science – a gift as it brings us new knowledge, yet knowledge that is only for a given point in time because it can change based on newer knowledge. Because of potential development of new knowledge, science must be willing to have what is currently known to be proven wrong.

Science – a system giving us gives theories: a structure of ideas based on large amounts of evidence that explain and interpret numerous facts about a concept – therefore, well beyond a personal opinion or a detective’s hunch.

Science – a habit of mind of careful sifting of data and withholding of final judgment.

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Science – a methodology that does not make moral, ethical, and value judgments for society because those judgments are made by society.

Science – a way of knowing, but not the only way because science does not corner the way to truth about everything. Philosophical, theological, psychological/emotional, ethical, political, and historical views provide additional perspectives, yet each discipline is selective and limited.

Science – an activity bringing forth new issues causing humanity to face moral and ethical questions – whose answers science does not provide because it is neither equipped nor competent to answer ethical and moral questions, let alone the metaphysical, philosophical, or theological questions as “what is the meaning of life”, “why am I here”, and “is there a god?”

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Science – a process with recognized limitations. Science does not state how to use its knowledge. Science does not make value judgments. Science is limited to studying in nature. Science is limited to our ability to observe, including technology’s limitations. Science does not operate outside of its defined methodologies.

Science – a study that is limited to itself. Science cannot prove or disprove God’s existence because that question/topic lies outside science’s self-imposed boundaries of the observable events in the natural world around us.

Science – a study that should be embraced by all.

On a Book Review about Yes

Because the interchange between science and religion is a hobby of mine, I’ve read my share of books and articles on the topic – so I recognize many of the leading names in the field. Dr. Denis Lamoureux is one of those authors, but I haven’t lamoureuxbookcoverread any of his work. That’s why I placed Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! on my reading list while snowbirding in warmer weather this past January.

Dr. Lamoureux is a Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. Interesting that some colleges have at least a designation of science and religion as a study.

In this book, Dr. Lamoureux incorporates the concept of the existence of two books: The Book of Word (Scripture) and the Book of Works (Nature). This thought has been around for many years as people as Galileo and Francis Bacon used it – but it remains timely today. Lamoureux encourage readers to listen to both books. I was already aware of this concept, so for me, this book reinforces the point.

Dr. Lamoureux also weaves his personal story into the text – his moments of wrestling with science and faith. His journey from Christianity to Atheism to 7-day Creationist to theistic evolutionist is interesting in itself. Because of his experiences, he knows the trials and tribulations people face while understanding the source of their angst. Yet, in this text, I felt him encouraging others.

Because of his involvement with the opposing ends of this topic’s spectrum, Lamoureux knows that the opposing ends force people to make a choice. Therefore, he includes the important concept of dichotomous decisions throughout the text; as well as the effects of forced choices as causing some to lose their faith or not follow a personal dream of a science career – especially in biology.

Along his personal journey, Dr. Lamoureux incorporates words from Richard Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist and staunch atheist), Michael Behe (a biochemist and important Intelligent Design Theory advocate), Charles Darwin, and Scripture. It’s through those interactions that Lamoureux helps readers understand the issues and rationale behind different viewpoints.

Dr. Lamoureux’s passions are apparent in the text. His passion about the interchange. His passion about science. His passion as a Christian – and through these passions he shines a light on the path for those who want to know how to harmonize religion and science without compromising personal faith.

As a university professor, Dr. Lamoureux’s students are at many positions on the continuum of religion and science – especially regarding evolution. Not only does he weave some his encounters along the way, he dedicates an entire chapter (the last one) to various discussions with students. This was priceless for me.

Readers should be aware that Dr. Lamoureux’s view of intelligent design is different than Behe’s Intelligent Design Theory. Although I understand and agree with his point, the natural similarity of the wordings bothered me for some reason. On the other hand, I am over that minor discomfort.

Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! is an excellent book for those who struggle with a literal Genesis and evolution. It’s also an excellent read for those who do not struggle because it provides reasons they may not know. Lamoureux’s words are rooted in an unwavering belief in the two books that successfully intertwine science and religion.

Two sidebars
Somewhere in the book I noticed that Dr. Lamoureux did a TEDx Talk, so I watched. I recommend this 14-minute lecture because it is a mini-version of this book. Besides, Dr. Lamoureux is also a good speaker. His lecture is below.

After reading the book and watching the lecture, I emailed Dr. Lamoureux. Not only did I appreciate that he took the time to respond, but we also engaged in dialogue, He also gave me additional resources. All of which I am grateful.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 238

On Politics

From WordPress

From WordPress … but I will vote on Tuesday

I encourage those in US states with Congressional races to use the three fact checkers I provide on the sidebar (under Resources): Annenberg FactCheck, PolitiFact, and The Fact Checker (@Washington Post). , ,

On the topic of fact checks, one of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) ads mentions a factcheck regarding his opponent. Interestingly, Sen. McConnell’s has claims don’t clear the same bar.

Not surprisingly to me, the Cincinnati Enquirer endorsed Sen. McConnell for the contested Senate seat. However, and sad to say, the last sentence in the endorsement caused me to laugh: We (the editorial board) just hope that, if re-elected, McConnell will remember that’s it’s Kentuckians first – not his party – whom he answers to first.

I find this scenario interesting: What if the Republicans gain control of the Senate, but their leader loses his re-election?

Mitt Romney says a GOP-controlled Senate would end gridlock in Washington. Sorry Mitt, I disagree. Did your Civics class leave out the White House’s role in legislation?

Last week I asked instead of disposing all four of the top Congressional leaders (Reid, McConnell, Boehner, Pelosi), and if you could keep just one, who would it be? … and who do you think I would keep. Surprise … for me it would be John Boehner (R-OH). Although he has to deal with a difficult caucus within his own party, as an individual, I believe he would be the one most willing to make a deal.

To lead you into this week’s headlines from The Onion, here a few about next week’s election:

  • Midterm candidates distancing themselves from the United States
  • 45-year-old to help candidate understand the youth vote
  • Traumatized nation terrified to make its voice heard in another election

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Two-year old never thought he would see the Giants win the World Series
Man’s heart stops as speaker asks audience to turn to person next to them
Four angels banished from heaven for attempting to unionize
Antidepressant can’t believe it’s expected it’s expected to fix this mess all on its own
Crowd outside White House hoping to catch glimpse of President naked

Bonus Graphic: How Ebola Quarantine Works

Interesting Reads
Shift college programs to 3 years?
Media habits of the partisans …. (and something I wrote in January 2009)
Keyless cars and thieves
Neil Young: Musician, artist, and painter
Denying science in politics
Interactive: Henry Hudson on the Hudson

On Potpourri
Happy Halloween. Here’s an interesting read wondering if adults have hijacked Halloween.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning baseball’s World Series … and special congrats to their fans who visit here that I know love their Giants … especially Lame and Amy.

Pope Francis’ support (this week) for science regarding evolution and creation not only does not surprise me, but it continues a trend going back to Pope Pius XII. Regardless the clamor of the noisy cranks, there is no question in my mind that when measured along denominational lines, this is the predominant view among Christians. Even in that light, much of the Atheist community is not willing to join in partnership against the conservative agenda of placing God-driven creationism based on Genesis in public schools.

To go along with the previous comment, I’ve been saving this one from Pew Research about attitudes about evolution by political party.

Dr. John Walton is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. (I loved his book about Genesis that I reviewed here.) Recently, I read this worthy essay about right vs. wrong … and I think agree vs. disagree is also valid.

I continue to find a wonderful interest in Cynthia’s poems, Her audio versions add to my experience because she has an outstanding cadence. If you visit and comment, tell her I sent you … and a special thanks to Mary for directing me to Cynthia.

Lauren Hill, the college freshman from the Cincinnati area with an inoperable brain, is expected not to see 2016, yet this Sunday she will get her dream of playing in a college basketball game. It seems that various cable stations will be broadcasting the game in different parts of the country. I’m curious if this makes the local news (television, radio, or newspaper) in your area … so let me know. Here’s an article about her. PS: I’ve learned that she will be in the starting lineup, plus the last player introduced.

Cheers to everyone’s effort in yesterday’s Act 11 of Life: The Musical. In the history of musicals here, readers provided many songs that I didn’t know … and as one who appreciates a wide-variety of music, I say Many thanks!

This blog hit the 200,000 hits mark late Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the rollover, but my guess the celebratory moment occurred sometime between 11:40-11:55 AM (Eastern US).

No Saturday Morning Cartoon this week because tomorrow is a special day! Do you remember why?

Your weekend celebrations

  • (Weekend) Punkin Chunkin Champtionships (Video to learn about it)
  • (Fri) Happy Halloween!, Knock-Knock Jokes Day, Caramel Apples Day, Books for Treats Day, Day of the Seven Billion, Frankenstein Friday, Girl Scout Founder’s Day, Bandana Day, Breadsticks Day, Magic Day, Scare a Friend Day
  • (Sat) Fried Clams Day, Extra Mile Day, Give Up Your Shoulds Day, Sadie Hawkins Day, Games Day. Authors’ Day, Family Caregivers Day. Family Literacy Day, Go Cook for Your Pets Day, Prime Meridian Day, Kite Day, Games Day
  • (Sun) Deviled Eggs Day, Cookie Monster Day, Plan Your Epitaph Day, Zero Tasking Day, Name Your Car Day, Look for Circles Day

Here’s another 2-fer to send you into the weekend. With Saturday being Sadie Hawkins Day, the first takes you back to 1959 with Stubby Kaye in Lil Abner. If musicals of that era aren’t your thing, you are only going back to 1980 for Turn It On Again (Genesis). Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.